Cllr Ian Smith, Mayor of Uckfield, presided over the re-opening of the last two shops in buildings severely damaged by ‘The Great Fire of Uckfield’.
‘Sense’ and the British Heart Foundation shop opened at the end of last week. Both have been shut since the fire wrecked the building - which fronts onto the High Street and backs onto Olives Yard - on Sunday night, September 2, 2012.
Forty firefighters from Uckfield, Crowborough, Barcombe, Lewes and Heathfield tackled the blaze which spread rapidly through the roof space.
The fire was started deliberately when two teenagers hurled a plastic tray full of scent into a bin at the back of the Sense charity shop.
Police arrested and charged the pair who appeared in court in July last year.
Geraint Purton, 19, was jailed for three years and Adam Bushell, 18, received a nine-month suspended sentence and was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
The court was told that Bushell, who sufferes from Tourette’s syndrome, was susceptible to peer pressure while Purton had taken cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and alcohol.
Purton was also sentenced for one count of burglary and asked Judge Charles Kemp to take 13 similar offences into consideration. The court was told he had committed the burglaries between October 2012 and March last year while on bail for the Uckfield arson. In one of these burglaries - all involving people’s homes - the court was told he stole jewellery and cutlery worth more than £5,000.
Both the BHF and Sense shops opened at 11am last Thursday in front of a large crowd. Uckfield’s firefighters were also on hand to watch the building re-opened that they had fought so hard to save. Cllr Smith wished both businesses well and said both added an extra dimension to the pleasure of shopping in Uckfield.